Towards gender-sensitive responses in the drugs field: Intersections between sexual violence, drug use in nightlife environments

Thursday, 24 October, 2019 - 19:10 to 19:20
Networking zone 3 (N3)


Nightlife environments work as privileged leisure space-times in young people’s social lives and help develop and affirm social bonds. However besides the feminization of nightlife leisure and alcohol use in the last 30 years, within these settings gender asymmetries are continuously reproduced and, frequently, exacerbated. The objectification and systematic use of hyper sexualized female imageries associated to nighttime and alcohol promotional material is a symptom of a nightlife leisure where sexism is interiorized and the rape culture is naturalized and embraced. Additionally, both men and women are encouraged to "lose control” but women are expected to maintain their self-control and “respectability” and to integrate sexual harassment as part of their clubbing experiences. In case of sexual violence, several rape myths and victim-blaming beliefs are reproduced. The same behaviors serve to justify the perpetrator because "he couldn´t control himself” and to judge the victim because “she didn’t self-control herself”.

In this presentation, we intend to present results from a research implemented with Portuguese partygoers, focused on the intersection of nightlife environments, drug use and sexual violence. The methodology was based in a web-survey, widely disseminated through social networks, two Focus groups with female and male party goers and a collective interview with managers of nightlife establishments (Bars and Clubs). The data was triangulated and demonstrated that drug use in nightlife environments are related with gender-specific risks such as low and hight intensity sexual violence (sexual harassment, abuse and rape). In nightlife environments, sexual harassment is very prevalent and frequent among women being most of the perpetrators male. Respondents don’t associate alcohol and drug use with sexually aggressive behavior, however there is a relation between heavy alcohol and drug use and sexual victimization, specifically with “sexual aggression without physical violence” (when the victim was unconscious or unable to react).Qualitative data demonstrated that sexual victimization related with drug use in nightlife environments is strongly related with hegemonic gender norms. Women that engage in heavier drinking our drug use patterns are seen as sexually available and, in case they are sexually assaulted, they are blamed for their own victimization (because they drunk too much, because they were alone…). On the other hand, the aggressive male behaviors are excused alleging they were drugs and couldn’t control themselves. Additionally, nightlife environments also play a role in normalizing, and exacerbating or denormalizing the rape culture. The use of sexist contents and practices created an environments that promote sexual violence. In this sense, these data have implications for the practices and policies in the drugs field by making visible gender-related differences in risks related with drug use in nightlife environments. So this study can contribute to promote gender-sensitive services and policies.




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